By Rich Davenport, published December 10, 2021, updated 12/17/2021
As calendar year 2021 comes to an end, things have been rather busy in Albany, as the NYSDEC has announced another round of proposed regulation changes to the freshwater fishing syllabus, with the intentions being to streamline further the rules while also standardizing fishing season openers. These potential changes were first discussed during the NYSCC fall convention held on August 28, 2021.
The announcement of new proposed regulations came on December 8, 2021, and reiterated on December 10, which provides anglers with a 60 day comment period, which ends February 6, 2022.
Highlights of the proposed changes include adopting an inland trout pond management strategy that will consolidate 143 different waters and 33 county-wide special regulations into a single, statewide regulatory framework, which will permit anglers to harvest five (5) trout per day, with only two (2) exceeding 12″ in length (similar to stocked stream regulations), as most ponds are stocked for “put-and-take” or “put-grow-and take” fishing, and utilize either brown trout or rainbow trout. Waters managed for these species and purposes are proposed to remain open year-round for trout harvest, while those ponds that are stocked with brook trout, which are largely managed to achieve self-sustaining wild reproduction, will be closed to fishing from October 16-March 31.
The proposals will also include removal of the statewide closed season restriction on Lake Trout and Atlantic Salmon, which will consolidate 24 lake trout waters and 33 Atlantic salmon water body regulations into a single statewide standard, as over the years a greater number of these specially regulated waters have been opened to year-round fishing under special regulations, which is now the norm, rather than the exception. These changes will also make more consistent management plans with the balance of the state strategies.
Another proposed change is to allow ice fishing on all trout ponds year round unless specifically prohibited, with the exception of Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington counties, where the existing “ice fishing is prohibited unless specifically permitted in waters inhabited by trout” regulation exists and will still apply. Trout pond ice fishing is generally allowed across NYS, excluding these 9 excluded counties, which will reduce the need to continue the special regulations to accommodate ice fishing.
Additional proposed changes include removing the special walleye regulations on Oneida Lake, which currently limits anglers’ harvest to an 18 inch minimum size, and 3 fish per day creel limit. The move will restore the statewide standards of 15 inch minimum and a 5 per day creel limit, as walleye populations have rebounded to the point where the special regulations no longer are needed. Meanwhile, changes proposed to walleye fishing on Skaneateles Lake will will establish a no-daily limit, 12 inch minimum, year-round fishing for walleye, as to suppress this newly introduced species, which has the potential to cause harm to the lake’s high-quality trout and salmon fishery.
Most notable changes proposed in this regulatory package are changes to the opening days of several popular fishing seasons, moving to standardize all fishing season openings and closings to a hard date, vs. a specific day (Saturday) of a month. Changes proposed include:
- Opening of statewide walleye, northern pike, pickerel and tiger musky seasons on May 1, as opposed to the first Saturday in May.
- Opening of statewide musky season to June 1, versus last Saturday in May for inland fishing.
- Opening of statewide black bass season to June 15, versus the current third Saturday in June definition.
- Great Lakes muskellunge will see the introduction of a special regulation setting the season to start June 15 with statewide black bass, with a closing date of December 15, which aligns with musky season on the Canadian side of the lakes, upper and ,lower Niagara Rivers, and St. Lawrence Seaway.
Finally, DEC is also addressing some clerical mistakes made during the last round of changes, where daily creel limits for rainbow trout/ steelhead in the lower Niagara River was taken from 3 fish per day down to 2 per day, but never made it to the regulations book update, while also assuring the practice of snatching and spearing of fish is banned in select waters.
Anglers are advised to download a complete copy of the proposed changes, as this encompasses 41 pages, and review carefully, as the devil is always in the detail. DEC has also compiled a 4-page Regulatory Impact Statement, which can be downloaded and consumed as well.
Comment period runs through February 6, 2022, and stakeholders may comment on these proposals via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, using the subject line “Fishing Regulations Proposal Comments”, or via snail mail to Inland Fisheries Section, NYSDEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4753.